Friday, February 27, 2009

Blogging Beauty

My beautiful, kind, dear friend Catherine is elegant, stylish, clever and generous and it's no wonder that her home reflects all of these qualities. Why she puts up with my own total lack of interior decorating skills is beyond me and yet, I'll be honest: she's hurt my feelings.

I mean come ON, Catherine. Look at our baby-cack brown house and the magnificent magna out the front - that's got more innercity chic oozing out of it than inanities from the mouths of Australian idol judges. If you want eclectic, try coming over on wheelie bin day - our footpath is cram-packed full of bins from the flats next door and the breeze blows cascading coke bottle and maccas wrappers from the high school four doors up. Atmosphere aplenty and you've gotta love the tree fern stumps that got burned during the 46C heatwave a couple of weeks ago.

Despite knowing all this, she persisted in nominating *gulp* other bloggers to complete memes showing pictures of their homes. Frank photographs of where they relax, blog (I said 'blog' Dad, not 'bog'), cook, bathe, spend time with their loved ones etc. Clearly she automatically assumed that I:
1) wouldn't be interested; and/or
2) possess the aesthetic sensibilities of an over-caffeinated warthog.

OK, so there's a possibility that she could be correct but my wounded pride insists that I do the meme too, if only to educate the rest of you about the importance your design and style choices.

Granted, Catherine's photographs of her home are indeed stunning. What's the most amazing part is I've visited her many times and it always looks this good. It never looks dusty, cluttered or hiding a jarring clash of junk and mess despite having an active and lively seven year old son living there too. This is what her bedroom looks like all the time. No, I have no idea where she hides her ugg boots, trashy novels, mobile phone charger or old 1990s concert t-shirt-as-pyjamas either.

My boudoir on the other hand, might not be quite so stylish but there's one feature she'd have to be green about. My fan.

This plastic purveyer of coolness is an antique; a true modern classic to rival any Philippe Starcke frippery. Purchased at roughly the same time as my Abba Arrival record, it has lasted all through my school years, university, shared houses, marriage, parenthood and house moving. If you look closely you can see the layers of fluff and dust that are stubbornly clinging to every chrome piece. The lovely brown plastic perfectly complements the unvarnished K-Mart mirror I can't be bothered hanging on the wall and the basket of roll-on deodorants that I'm starting to suspect are breeding. See, I can do this too, Catherine!

Catherine has professed a love for quirky side

The butler-tray tables by her sofas are indeed gorgeous, but I reckon that my table also scores a few points on the style scale:

Cool, right? It's my grandfather's pot plant stand that he made in the 1930s that was languishing in his sunroom just after he moved into an aged care facility in 2003. He let me have it and I slapped (sorry: lovingly dressed) some leftover white skirting board paint on the little guy and voila - instant sophistication and just the right amount of space for the telly guide and remotes! See, I'm kicking creative arse in this meme.

Now kitchens are a regular feature of Home Beautiful, Better Homes and Gardens and Catherine's blog and fair enough when they look like this:

White, clean, bright and inviting. But where's the fridge hiding? How come the chux isn't hanging off the tap to dry and why is it shameful to have pesky little things like kettles and toasters on display?

Well, I'm proud to note that our kitchen bench tops are the same caesar-stone stuff that's so beloved of kitchens like the one above, but I'm not afraid to take a snap with the real life clutter still on it.

You've got the tea towel proudly dangling from the oven door, the cheapie white kettle, coveted coffee machine, grinder, leftover wine (only if it's red), iPod dock, school notices yet to be stuck on the fridge via a series of magnets, chicken mince defrosting, junk mail, shopping lists, various keys, pens and individual water glasses that we try and keep using continuously throughout the day so that there's only three to wash instead of twenty.

Oh and the mega packet of lolly snakes - the true kitchen essential.

I'm mean you're loving this, aren't you? Busy drafting your rapturous letters to Home Beautiful, begging them to contact Blurb from the Burbs for a refreshing visit to a house of style, substance and ..... stuff.

To the living room and the absolute essential: the pet bed.

I hope you all take note that the red bean bag cover has been specifically sewn by my talented mother at my request so that it matches our rug.

Unfortunately (and every good design story in magazines has a 'however if we could do one thing differently it would be to move the butler's pantry to the north side nearer the infinity edged pool'), having an orange dog who sheds more hairs than a nervous lamington does coconut means that said rug is often more orange than red and tends to form balls of mouse-sized pet fur when criss-crossed with too much traffic through the room.

In addition I have yet to devise a more attractive drinking dish for Milly than the old tupperware job that is surreptitiously hidden in front of the bookcase.

Finally, the bathroom. Actually I should emphasise first that we now have a bath. In Adelaide we only had a shower, so the bath is a luxury not for soaking in but for plugging up and then using the buckets to scoop up the water and fling out onto our almost-dead garden.

As I'm now getting used to having a shower standing in a pool of my own soap suds and filth I also use the water to give my thongs (that's flip flops to you Poms) a clean as well.
.... and look at the handy shelf that allows my footwear to dry, keep the buckets in line and Sapphire's shower cap to drain off?

Oh I have style, Catherine. Arse loads of it baby!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

No more smoked salmon for me, thanks

I loved smoked salmon; in fact I adore it. When it's on special at the supermarket I joyfully scoop up a packet or two after checking that the use-by date wasn't the day before, and look forward to having some for lunch in fresh multigrain bread slathered with cream cheese, cracked black pepper and tiny capers.

However, two days ago, said favourite lunch decided to contact my old arch-enemy, Mr Migraine, and play a few hellish games with not only my head, but also my stomach, colon, eyesight and ability to stand upright.

I have never seen Mr Migraine in person and don't get those 'flashing lights' that some other sufferers get as a warning, so he's an invisible figure to me. He's reduced to an imaginary but thoroughly malevolent troll-like creature in my mind.

Quite literally in my mind. He somehow made his deliberately clumsy entrance into my brain cavity (no doubt quite easily via my ear canals) with a red hot poker in one hand, an egg beater in the other and a metal nut-cracker wedged in his teeth. He then proceeded to frantically jab, whack, thrust, whirl and beat his instruments of torture against the back of my eyes (favouring the left one mostly), cheekbones, hairline, forehead, jaw and teeth.

To pass the time whilst curling up in my dark bedroom in the foetal position, I chose to think of him as the satanically violent version of those 'Coke Adds Life' bikini-clad airheads who used to run inside a huge inflatable beach ball in the 1970s except that these days there's only one person inside who's actually bigger than the ball and gleefully elbowing hard enough to turn the once-round sphere into a mangled chamber of dents, lumps and pulsating pain.

For added amusement, he then decided to hurl himself in a devilish stage dive directly into my grey matter and make sure he deliberately flayed about in the rubbery ooze like a drunk at a pool party. With my eyes clamped shut I could imagine the scene very clearly.

Unfortunately, he was in an even more foul mood than usual and decided it was time to spitefully squeeze the 'Nausea and Vomit' segment of my brain before skipping off to give the 'Eight Hours of Agony' and 'A Dozen Urgent Trots to the Toilet' buttons a good going-over as well. This is when my decision to have smoked salmon for lunch was apparently not a good one.

During Mr Migraine's visit I discovered that the laws of physics don't seem to apply to the amount of food I've eaten compared to the actual volume that furiously spurted forth a few hours later. My body seemed to be personifying Dr Who's tardis, and that bile-tainted, befouled flaccid fish kept visiting me via the emergency exit trajectory over and over and over again.

For those of you who are not migraine sufferers, I can barely explain the physical skill and dexterity involved in making it to the toilet in time to crap out your entire lower body weight whilst clutching at your splitting head in agony with one hand and keeping the sick bucket steady on your thighs with the other as that satanic salmon sandwich flies out with added pungency and fluid. Then try and work out which part of the body should be cleaned, wiped and covered first whilst ensuring that the other spillages and eruptions are not splashed onto your clothing, eyes or nasal passages.

This is not to say that Mr Migraine is victorious every time. No, he does not always achieve his maximum aim of reducing me to a moaning, curled-up wreck hiding in the darkness hearing the happy sounds of Love Chunks and Sapphire's chatter in the other end of the house but unable to join them because it is too loud too bright too noisy too hurtful too thumpy too glarey too painful too....

No, several days earlier Mr M was obviously feeling a bit lazy and decided to send his apprentice over to do the dirty work instead. With his warty little mitts carrying fruit knives and maraccas and his mouth full of thumb tacks, he growled, "Get over here, RumpledForeSkin. I haven't got the time to be holding your hand all day. You can bugger off and go find Kath Lockett and start giving her The Treatment, you miserable, snivelling little phelgm ball!" At this point, RumpledForeSkin meekly agreed and nervously bowed out of the room, glad to be out of Mr M's way.

Like all apprentices, he'd learned to be polite but also extremely wary. Similar to all other spotty juniors, he is the lowest in rank, the weakest in power and the most eager to please, and therefore would have been the butt of many jokes and the butt of many drunken passes at Friday night work drinks. RumpledForeSkin would also have been sent to the post office for a 'verbal agreement', given the phone number of the zoo to ask for a Mr G. Raff and been laughed out of Mitre 10 for requesting a can of striped paint. Har hardy harrr.

Therefore his attempts to rouse up a migraine in me were timid and ineffective. His little taps behind my eyeball or against my temples gave me ample time to find my tablets, slurp down a double espresso and slow my pace down to a crawl. Rumply-babes was then forced to go back to head office, vainly trying to work out how he was going to complete the days' paperwork: "Umm, she was already dead.....Erm she no longer works there....... She was willingly listening to Robbie Williams on her ipod.....the Cold and Flu guy had already arrived and had cordoned off the area....."

Sadly, Mr Migraine was not satisfied. He got very pissed off with RumpledForeSkin the day before yesterday and shoved him aside roughly, yelling, "I'm going to go and do the bloody job myself!"

Which he did. Extremely well.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unravelling the mystery

It was a cool morning, and the huge building loomed up above me menacingly, blocking the early morning sun. Today was the day: the day I'd finally find out what that mysterious monolith on top of the Holland Street Housing Commission Block actually was.

Feeling every molecule of my white-arsed, fully-fed, blithering-busybody, nosey-parker persona, I decided to take along my trusty companion Milly as a buffer and bodyguard.

Just as we were about to cross the road, a swaying-but-smiling old gent approached. Time to be brave. "Er, good morning. Um, you wouldn't happen to know what that (I pointed dramatically behind him, hoping that his one good eye would have the muscle power to focus there) Big M thingy is on top of your building, would you?"

He paused for a few moments, allowing his not-so-good-eye time to drag itself away from my ample chest. "Yessssh, ishts the Polisht shstashtion." He nodded and repeated it again, to cement the idea in his mind as well as mine. "Yesssh, thatsh itsht alright," and swayed with a satisfied smile off in the direction of Cellarbrations.

Despite his help, I rather suspected that I might need further proof. Somehow, the idea of Melbourne's finest providers of law and civic obedience being busy working in an office shaped like a baby blue McDonald's sign twenty floors above the earth didn't seem quite right.

Another gnarled but steady bloke was herding some stray shopping trolleys out of the foyer. Any idea about the mysterious monolith on the roof.... "No no no, I just-a work-a here, then-a go-a home-a."

His attitude wasn't too comforting, yet the foyer and lifts were magnificent and gleamingly clean. No pongs anywhere, except for the soles of my feet (damn that compressed dog turd by the rosemary bush) and Milly (breath).

A youngish woman carrying a shopping bag crammed with about a dozen loaves of white bread joined me. "Hope you don't mind the dog," I said.

"Ah, that's OK. He's a cute little fella."

I didn't have the heart to correct her gender confusion and ploughed on. "You wouldn't happen to know what the blue Big M thing is on top of this building, would you?"

"Nah, but if you find out, tell me. I've been here for eight years and have no idea," she chuckled as she stepped off at floor sixteen, presumably to create one hell of a feast of vegemite toast.

Not surprisingly, there was no access to the roof beyond the 20th floor, so I leaned out of the passage window and took a quick snap of the edge of the pale blue - more like dull grey in close view - thingy. Not a soul was in any of the hallways as I poked around, starting to feel like a voyeur: who was I to wander into their living space, just so I could satisfy my own idle curiosity? Would I like it if someone poked around my front yard just to find out what the dangly feng shui thing on the verandah post was all about?

Still, the view of the Docklands and city was rather good.

Milly nudged me, letting me know by emitting a few other powerfully pungent odours that it was high time we legged it to Debney Park and used one of the nappybags tied to her lead.

Back at home and a few mouse clicks later it seems as though my dodgy-eyed friend was off the mark. The mysterious monolith is indeed the third lift-well, built in 1994 to accommodate the largest of the blocks with a new side wing. Not exactly as thrilling as having the local law enforcement agency working inside it launching themselves from sky rockets hundreds of metres up in the air in response to emergency save-the-world calls, but an answer nevertheless.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Crack the Horn

As a well known and usually-proud dag, I have another guilty pleasure. By sharing this secret with you, I'm trying to do my bloggy bit to shift our minds (however briefly) from the bushfires of hell to something that might make you smile, if only in smug superiority. Besides, I've yet to pluck the courage to find out exactly what that Mysterious Monolith is yet.

Yes, in addition to wearing Crocs, kissing my rabbit on the lips and high-waisted undies, I also have an unhealthy fondness for horn. Well, saxophones to be precise. Their silken, sensual sound works for rock, pop, soul, folk and ska in my stuck-mostly-in-the-eighties music book. Brace yourselves, readers, because here are the saxiest beats on my iPod:

Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty. I'm sick to death of the song and groan if I hear it, but then that sax starts and I'm off. Off to Baker Street where I can forget about everything. She's got a dream about buying some land; givin' up the booze and the one-night stands.....

Careless Whisper - George Michael. Back in the days when Georgie boy was straighter than the lines on a dunny door he told us that he was never gonna dance again because guilty feet aint got no rhythm.... The Lady Diana lookalike with the pointy chin in the film clip never forgave him and flew off to be with someone who'd stay hetero forever.

I don't believe any more - Icehouse. Sad, heartbreaking, lingering, bitter. Just like a good gin and tonic after a long day's whining.

It's Raining Again - Supertramp. Cheerful, bouncy, sweet. Yes, it's Supertramp, but this is too infectious not to include. And don't forget the poetic lyrics: 'It's raining again, Oh no my love's at an end.....'

On the dark side - Eddie and the Cruisers. I was sixteen when this movie came out and it rocked. Well, in 1984 it did. Not that it's star Michael Pare went on to any dizzy acting heights - the last I saw of him he was the bad husband in a two minute scene with Sandra Bullock in the excrementally boring movie 'Hope Floats'. Yeah and so do fibre-filled turds.....

Heart of Rock-n-Roll - Huey Lewis and the News. Still good to run to. And pant out the words to, if fitness, speed and privacy permits.

Who can it be now? - Men at Work. The sax is the song.

Just Got Lucky - JoBoxers. I'm pretty sure that it's a sax in this song, but again, it was 1983 and such an arse-kickingly happy song. The lead singer (Sir Joseph Boxer) was one of the leads in the West End musical 'Five Guys Named Moe' that I went to see in the nose-bleedingly cheap seats in 1992.

Chanson D'Amour - Manhattan Transfer. I was a kid when I heard Mrs Cowham next door play this record. It was simply the most sophisticated and lush song I'd ever heard. Then again, my favourite song before that was a close tie between the Hustle and the Popcorn instrumental, but you have to start somewhere. "La da da da da...."

You talk too much - George Thorogood. This is fantastic to run to as the sax and drums even pound like fast feet do. For someone whose telling his lady to shoosh though he sure has a set of goat teeth and a mouth on him.

Smooth Operator - Sade. Beloved of coffee bars, cafes and dinner parties worldwide.

Will it ever stop raining? - The Saw Doctors. Sax used as a background step-one, step-two rhythm as Davey Carton bemoans dropping his icecream on the sand and backing an old greyhound who stopped right in front of the sands.

Sherry Darling - Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band. Just one of many featuring the mighty Clarence Clemons. Legend has it that he turned up to an audition with Bruce and the E Street Band on a windy day. He made a rather dramatic entrance when he flung the door open and it and fell off its hinges and blew down the street. Bruce apparently said, "Phark, who is this guy?" and no doubt was too frightened not to offer him the job.

But that doesn't mean that even a middle-of-the-roader like me likes anything and everything from the eighties. No Stevie Winwood, Johnny Farnham, Jimmy Barnes or soft-metal of any kind, let alone the hideous horn work on:

The Heat is on - Glen Frey. Annoyingly overplayed like a blowfly in a sauce bottle.

I do I do I do I do I do - by Abba. I may be a big fan, but this is by far my least favourite song next to 'Rock Me' and 'Me and Bobby and Bobby's Brother'

Anything by Spandau Ballet. One of the band members who later got into acting and played a Kray twin admitted to Michael Parkinson that, when nearly gored to death by a bull in a Spanish video shoot gone horribly wrong, he was more concerned about the impact it would have on his just-styled hair than any of his bones or blood supply.

And Joe Cocker can Leave his bloody hat on, grab his car keys and nunchucks and tell every easy listenin' DJ or bored soundcheck guy at Ladies' nights the world over to burn every single copy of the song for all eternity. I've seen far too many drunk mothers-of-the-bride-to-be trying to squeeze their sausage stomachs and buttery boobs out of trashy tank tops and denim minis after Dazzling Darryl's done his dancing on stage.....

But even horns that aren't saxophones can still 'do it' for me:

Pretty well every song done by Madness

Soul Kind of Feeling & Gotta be the wrong way to love - Dynaptic Hepnotics

Most of the Hunters and Collectors' back catalogue

Consider me gone & If you love somebody - Sting

Rat in me kitchen - UB40

Reward - Teardrop Explodes

Cut the talking - The Dugites

Soul Man - Lou Reed and Sam Moore version

Dumb Things - Paul Kelly

Would I lie to you - Eurythmics

Everything ever done by Oingo Boingo, especially live on stage

.....have I gone too far? Do I need help to get over my shameful, FM-radio-style music tastes? And yet, believe it or not, I hate 'oldies' FM music and have The Specials, Radiohead, The Damned, Green Day, Nirvana, Live and a few others lurking in my CD collection.

But the saxophone, ooooh..... Seeing as Ray Bans and high-waisted jeans are back, can't the sax come back too?

Tell me, dear reader, you know and I know that help here is desperately needed: what other saxolicious songs should I be listening to?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quandary of Curiosity

Flemington is a funny little suburb full of clear contrasts. Overlooking all of the cutely renovated 1890s cottages, weatherboard Edwardians and townhouses are the Housing Commission Flats; sombre, imposing and a daily reminder of the struggles still being fought.

Way back in 1994 when Love Chunks and I were renting in Farnham Street, driving the 1971 Sucked Crunchie, gas-converted Volvo and listening to domestic arguments in the flat below, we witnessed a very lengthy construction being built on top of one of the commission towers. For the best part of the year, something shaped like a McDonalds-sponsored Detox funhouse was appearing. Painting it bright yellow only enhanced that idea, because no-one I asked had any idea what the actual construction was supposed to be.

Fifteen years later finds it painted a greyish blue but still no answers given. Why is it just on the one building and not the others?

I asked my hairdresser that very question last week, as we chatted amiably in her sleek salon and watched four drunk blokes sucking down scotch from paper bags outside in the street.

"I have no idea," she trilled cheerfully. "I've lived here for four years but couldn't tell you - what I will tell you though, is DON'T GO THERE. It's very dangerous."

What was more dangerous was the price she charged me for a hair cut - seventy five dollars! Considering that it didn't need washing or blow-drying and is about two-and-a-half inches long all over, I felt well and truly ripped off. On the inside, anyway. On the outside I meekly handed over my credit card, said "G'day" to the drinkers outside ("An' Hello to you too, Darlin") and walked home, past the shadow of the Mysterious Monolith.

A parent of one of Sapphire's new school buddies is an ex-Victorian police detective who had visited the commission flats more than once in his career. Did he know what the Mysterious Monolith was? "Nah, haven't the foggiest. What I do remember was the smell. Cramming so many people together without decent facilities or ventilation meant that all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as I could."

Oh, I bet you have some stories to tell about the folk living there. "Yes, there are some real shockers in there, but there's also a lot more nice people who just need some help to get back on their feet or are starting out their new lives with plans to move out as soon as they're able to."

So, should I enter the building? "Look, go to the building, hang around the foyer and ask what it is by all means, but dress down, don't take your wallet and take someone with you."

Seeing as my entire wardrobe could only charitably be described as 'dressed down' and my wallet has never troubled me for size or weight my curiosity about the Mysterious Monolith remains. But here's the hypocritical quandary: I'm too frightened to go down there. The local papers are full of the story of some poor sod getting his teeth and nose bashed by some 'nearby residents' when leaving the KFC outlet at 9pm and there's just a bit too much "Thug Life" graffiti and litter around as menacingly visual 'We Own This Place' calling cards to make me doubt the wisdom of a walk there.

And yet, as this piece below shows, the Flem. Boys are pretty hot with spelling and grammar, adding a dot at the end of their 'Flem' abbreviation. Unless they were just trying to ensure that we could tell the difference between their beloved suburb and the stuff that dribbles out of nostrils when a cold hits?

What say you, reader? Should I be brave and find out the hard way what the Mysterious Monolith of the Flemington Housing Commission flats is?

Monday, February 16, 2009


As you can see, when abbreviated, Valentine's Day doesn't sound quite as romantic when associated with Venereal Disease and a visit to the clinic. Perhaps this is why Love Chunks and I rarely celebrate it.

No, not because we both regularly catch VD dear reader, but because we loathe the idea of being forced and harangued by screaming advertisers, all media and huge conglomerates as to when we have to be officially and extrovertingly romantic.

The bushfire tragedies and the fact that VD fell on a Saturday would have been extremely annoying for purveyers of over-priced, non-smelling, miniscule rose buds, dodgy greeting cards and foil balloons. Not only were most people electing to donate whatever money they would have wasted on impressing their Main Squeezes to the
Red Cross Bushfire Appeal but also because there'd be no point paying for bouquets and teddy bears to be hand-delivered as a means of showing off when it was a weekend and there'd be no co-workers to feel jealous or inadequate when said loved one got a call to come on down to the Reception Desk to pick up their poncy petals and appear more cherished as a result.

I honestly feel a bit sorry for blokes at VD time. No, stay with me, dear reader, not those who stray and end up with a raging case of the old fella itches, but those who are in happy and stable relationships and yet are continually peppered from all directions with advice on how to be more romantic, surprise her with gifts, be more thoughtful, change the bog roll when there's only a quarter of a square and that line of glue left; blah blah yawn. How come it is the men who are under pressure to surprise their partners and 'rediscover romance' but us girls get away scot-free? (By the way, who was this Scot and why did he always escape responsibility?)

Why aren't we women also being urged to surprise our loved one with flowers (or, let's face it, a year of lawn mowing and whipper snippering), choccies (replace with boutique beer and corn chips) or fancy meals out (think wide-screen tv, blissful silence and begging to provide them with sexual favours at every waking moment or quarter time break: whichever is most appropriate).

I'll stand up and admit that I too am guilty of forgetting that LC might also want a bit of romance in his life. We had our 14th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago and I completely forgot about it until my nine year old daughter reminded me and my husband walked in with a funny card that was filled with his most heart-warming and beautiful sentiments inside.

On Saturday, I disappointed him yet again. No cards, no red-heart-shaped underwear, pancakes or cute cocoa coffee froth but a whining, "Love Chunks, would you mind taking a look at my head? It feels really itchy."

And sure enough he found them. Head lice. Heaps of the critters; crawling, eating, flinging out their infernally evil eggs faster than a detoxing card sharp at the craps table. Yes, at forty years of age, I was suffering my first case of the creepy crawlies despite picking out at least twenty infestations from Sapphire's head over the past five years.

Without even a tiny sigh of self-pity, Love Chunks grabbed the lice comb, flicked on every light in the living room and sat me between his knees ready for a nit-pick. For the next hour he painstakingly searched, found, caught and squashed every louse on my scone and picked off each single, super-glue- sticky egg from every strand of hair.

It was boring, painful and gave both of us sore eyes and cricked necks. Nits are itchy, invasive and disgusting, yet being the Picker (as I often am with Sapphire) or the Pickee (the role Love Chunks was 'enjoying') makes the process a rather intimate one. Frequent but gentle combing, his breath lightly on my neck and me placing my trust in him entirely. "Don't worry, I'll get all the little buggers out." That's romance.

He checked everywhere and ensured that not a single egg or nit was left. True perfectionist behaviour that I was lucky to be the recipient of. I am every morning when he wakes up first, grinds the beans and makes us both the nicest cup of coffee ever. I am when he tirelessly gets up to soothe Sapphire when she wakes up from a nightmare, or is thirsty, wondering what that weird buzzing noise is in the street or loses her pillow. I am when he cooks nine out of ten meals for us, works tirelessly to set up the complicated things like the shed, the gym, the bbq, the watering system, the storage solutions. I am when he reaches for my hand just before he falls asleep and I still feel so honoured that it's mine he wants to hold after all this time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What a Palaver

Esteemed blogging buddy
Baino has recently done a Letter Meme (hers was ten things starting with M) and, I couldn't help it, but asked - yes asked, instead of politely waiting to be 'tagged' - for a letter. My only excuse is that well, I needed an excuse to write about something other than the bushfires: far better people are doing that and doing it much better than me. Donate, shop at the right stores (like Coles) and give blood when they ask you to.

In the meantime instead of telling me to Piss off she gave me the letter P.

Punch - A well-timed punch saved my life. At least I think it did. It was way back in 1991 and I was quitting my nanny job with relief and taking a mini-cab to a job interview in Finchley during the January snowstorms. Like the naive nincompoop Aussie backpacker I was, I sat in the front alongside the driver, chatting inanely about only having been in London for two weeks; how I wasn't sure where Kingsgate Avenue was and what sort of adventures I hoped to have. It was nearly 4pm and already pitch black. The driver muttered something about being lost and pulled into a side street. For once, my internal-alert-system switched on, stopped my chatter and, when he reached over to grab at my chest, I punched him one right in the face. BAM! He was clutching his nose in pain, screaming as I leapt out of the car into the snow. ...... Wouldn't you know it, but Kingsgate Avenue was right around the corner, so I took a deep breath, walked up to their front door for my interview and got the job. Nervous shaking and crying occurred a day or two after that when the enormity of my stupidity and lucky escape sank in.

Parachute - I did a solo parachute jump as my 21st birthday present to myself. I was newly single, still trying to come to grips with the utter let down and disappointing misery of working as a graduate trainee loans officer during the 1989 interest rates of 17.5% and needed to do something fun and pointless. None of my friends were game enough to join me, but Dad turned up to the Goolwa airport to see me nervously climb aboard a very small plane. At 2500 metres, when indicated by the instructor, I climbed out of the open door, put my right foot on the tiny rubber landing wheel as I reached for the wing strut, hang limply for a few moments before throwing my arms back wide as if in joy instead of terror as I dropped towards the earth. The beautifully-reassuring flappity-flap sound of the chute opening above me was something that returns to me still and the view below was amazing. I steered myself using the left and right toggles that hung from strings and landed on my feet. Dad, by this stage, had taken a range of photos to document the jump but still needed to lean up against the hangar until he felt the queasiness disappear.

Paint. In my last year of high school, I wanted to be an artist. A painter in particular. Of the five subjects that needed to be completed for matriculation, art was where I put at least 95% of my time and energies. I was probably the best drawer of my year, but realised during the interviews for Fine Arts that I'd be one of dozens who'd study for three years, turn into weirdly-dressed alterna-zombies with less chance of finding paid work than a paedophile at a petting zoo. I ended up choosing to study English, history and psychology instead with almost (but not quite) the same outcome I'd predicted for painting.

Parent. My hardest job ever. It is scary, puzzling, worrying and often prevents a decent night's sleep from occurring and yet still makes me smile when I realise that 'Mum' is another title that sounds a helluva lot better than Mrs Lockett or 'Hey Lady'. It came as a complete surprise that it was possible for me to be one (ask the Endocrinology Department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital), and not a day goes past where I don't look at Sapphire and wonder, "How in the hell did something as beautiful as she come about?" It even makes listening to her play her full, screechy repertoire on her brand new viola - when a migraine was fearfully looming last night - worth it.

Plump - I run and am pretty fit for an old gal (my resting heart beat is 60 and I can do 8 kilometres in forty minutes) but my body certainly doesn't resemble that of a runner. No, mine has the padding earned from daily chocolate inhalation, sitting on my arse at the computer for most of the day and (usually) eating more chocolate in the evenings in front of the telly with Love Chunks. If it wasn't for running and power walking I'd resemble a Lindt Ball wearing Crocs. This has an unintended bonus for any person I happen to stand next to at barbeques or outdoor parties. Mosquitoes are immediately attracted to my sweet, soft flesh and leave all of the other guests alone.

Potential - We all have it, regardless of our age. In my own case, I reckon I still haven't quite worked out what I want to be when I grow up and am now - after a few years of struggle, self-doubt, false starts and stress - am at least learning enjoying the discoveries made along the way.

Photography - My camera isn't fancy or new and I've never done a class or a course, but my trusty Canon is always with me. Yesterday for instance, I earned a few curious glances as I snapped at intriguing graffiti in the Bourke Street Mall, Wellington Street and when staring up at the Housing Commission block nearest our house wondering just what that pale blue squiggly thing was that sits on up on the very top of it. Despite this, I always end up kicking myself for neglecting to take photos of friends and family during social and fun occasions- either competely forgetting to or not wanting to 'ruin the moment' by asking everyone to stop what they're doing and smile.

- This is one form of human behaviour that I particularly despise. Persecution, domineering, bullying, oppression, torment: whatever you want to call it, it is the lowest form of behaviour for someone in power or a higher position to stoop to doing to someone who relies on them for work, assurance, security or a future. I will do my damnedest to stop it from happening from now on - no longer will I be that nervous teenager feeling afraid that the bullies will move to her, or the anxious co-worker too afraid of the boss's wrath so that it prevents me from sticking up for others. No-one deserves to feel worthless, frightened or as though they deserve it. No-one. And for those who have persecuted others - Karma will come, be sure of it.

Pilgrimage - Really this is just another word for travel in my book. After being thisclose to living in Geneva, the idea of travelling around Europe with Love Chunks and Sapphire for company would be a wish come true. As would a lenghty sojourn in various Asian countries, a fun-packed, kid-friendly trip to California and Hawaii or spending Christmas in New York with a nice juicy credit card. Not to mention Canada, Japan, the South Island of New Zealand and to finally get off my butt and find out what's in Canberra to see....

Pepper - On everything. Even in dark chocolate (especially good with lemon and/or salt to enhance the flavours). All I ask is that restaurants give up trying to stinge on the black stuff and leave the friggin' grinder on the table for us customers to use when and as often as we want. I mean come on - how many of us are going to try and walk out of a cafe with a wooden grinder the size of a pine tree shoved in our pockets?

So many other Ps to mention - my Partner Love Chunks, Patting Milly the dog and Skipper the rabbit; occasionally acting Pompous; avidly reading Paperbacks; receiving Praise when least expected; finding Presents for people that I know (or at least hope) they'll love; eating Portions of foods (especially evening meals) that are far too large; having mostly Peasant tastes; being too Pale for the Australian sun and yet feeling so Privileged to live here.
Tram Talk

Because The Age is focussing quite rightly on the status of the Victorian bushfires, the aftermath, the survival stories, statistics and what recovery plans are being discussed, I thought I'd focus my (occasional) attention on conversations in trams instead of a piece from the paper today.

We're lucky enough to have two routes to choose from: the 57 which wends its merry way through North Melbourne and drops us off anywhere along Racecourse Road, and the 59 Airport West which rumbles up Mount Alexander Road just past the big yellow cheesestick and red toast-rack sculptural installations that are mostly admired by bored and homeless seagulls.

Sometimes, listening to my brother Rob isn't all that comforting. If he's not telling me that it is a given that our car will be broken into, it's this: "I read that the Number 57 Tram Route has been proven to be the most violent in all of Melbourne and leads the way for numbers of assaults, robberies, vandalism and crime." Oh, thanks.

Having that in my now-fearful mind, I climbed aboard one yesterday from Elizabeth Street. Would I be assaulted for wearing no-name sneakers and a Target jacket? Would a drugged-out bogan try to yank off my shoulder bag only to find that inside it held yesterday's MX newspaper and some viola strings? Would he then want to rape and pillage me in revenge?

Luck was on my side, even if my nasal passages weren't, because the carriage stank. It reeked of week-old acrid armpits, ancient yiros wrappers and slippery-thonged sweaty feet. No crime was evident, except for my own. My ticket - used an hour earlier - couldn't be found, so I ignored the validating box and sat down, blushing awkwardly.

Behind me, a young couple sat down, she cursing like a fish wife. "Phark me, that guy was a pharkin' stunt of a tool, wasn't he? As if I dunnt have anuff stuff to worry about without his pharkin attitude...." Boyfriend nodded quietly, clearly used to her tirades and offered her some of his chips. This placated her somewhat as she then changed the subject, "Ya know how I told you that I can't handle fizzy drink, well last night, I'd had too many cruisers and pharkin' forgot and then drank some coke and didn't THAT set me guts right off!"

Right. Impressed, Boyfriend leaned over to give her a particularly greasy chip kiss. Either to shut her up or console her.

On the 59 another day, Sapphire and I stepped aboard to find it pretty full. Summer bargain shoppers, Aussie Open attendees, SMSing teenagers and late-morning workers, so we had to cram next to a rather large old couple.

"It's a bit of tight squeeze, sitting next to a fat bloke like me, isn't it love?" the man said, grinning down at Sapphire.
"Yes," she agreed, before I could shoosh her.
"Nothing like the honesty of kids," he laughed.

We got talking. They were from Essendon (why do locals not use the 'n' to pronounce it? Instead they say 'Esserden'), off to see some tennis as a break from attending dog shows as judges.

"We breed pugs, love."
"Oh? How many do you have?"
"Twelve right now, all ribbon winners. Gotta tell you though----" he leaned over to get closer so that he could share a secret.
"Those dogs have a better life than you do, darl. Baby lambs' wool beds, soft mattresses, air-conditioned kennels. You'd be the one standing outside in the sun, fannin' yourself with an old paper, feelin' envious."

No doubt.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fail. Words. Me.

Some Western Australian bible basher I'll simply call Danny Numbnuts is now attributing the Victorian bushfires as just retribution for our permissive, sinful society - especially those of us who endorse or have had an abortion.

'Ol Numbnuts - clearly gifted from above with the talents of tact, empathy and people skills - reputedly said, "In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb."

Bless him. It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic.
But do you know the ironic name of the brain dead sect he fronts? The Catch the Fire Ministries. I kid you not.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bloody brilliant!

As the death toll, horrific injuries, homelessness and environmental desecration increases every moment a news screenpage on the Victoria bushfires refreshes itself it is extremely difficult to think of anything else right now. I've cried so much this morning reading and seeing story after story, face after face reeling in shock, disbelief and bewilderment at their fate. I cried because I felt so ashamed at wallowing in my own petty whingeings yesterday when my now-home-state is suffering so terribly.

However, amongst all the hell, the good, the strong and the miraculous stories of survival, bravery and determination to start again are emerging. Even here, many kilometres away in the safety of Melbourne there are still some things to be proud of.

The Red Cross Bushfire Appeal is going strong. So strong, in fact, that their website is frequently jammed with donators and they're asking us to try again and be patient. I'm sure that no-one is 'Chucking a Connex' and complaining about their lousy internet provider or delays in service but will be prepared to log on later with their credit card details and blood type.

In addition, it seems that thousands of Victorians have heeded our girl River's advice to give blood, with the Red Cross' Chief Executive saying that "It's been overwhelming..... our resources are stretched.... it has been the single greatest interest we have to do a single event in the history of the blood service."

With blood having a rather limited shelf life and those shelves now full of the fresh stuff, Red Cross are asking that people stagger their donations by registering online. This will enable bloodbank staff to contact the donator when their blood is needed. "Giving a blood donation can save up to three lives," their CEO said.

One look at the poor man in the Burns Unit in the article alongside The Age's blood donor story is enough to realise that blood (among other things) will be needed for a very long time. His physical, emotional and mental agonies are only just beginning; let alone what might have become of other people found with him, alive or dead.

To think that these fires - still burning and likely to do so for a few more weeks - were deliberately lit by arsonists lies beyond my area of coherent reasoning. I don't believe in the death penalty, but if found, these morally stagnant shitbags should be forced to not only clear up the burned debris from all the homes, farms, community buildings and business that burned down, but also clean, disinfect and lovingly prepare every single bandage needed for those poor souls suffering in burns units.

They could do all of the above whilst donating their own blood, having their fresh skin scrubbed and scraped off and their other vital organs such as kidneys given to those who need it and deserve it more than they do.

Then, when those 'services' are no longer required, they can be set to digging out trenches for the installation of rainwater tanks and pipes that will enable every home and business to protect themselves from future firebugs. With their bare hands.

Then, and only then, the arsonists can atone by visiting each and every person affected by the disaster to apologise before replanting the ash-strewn land with regenerative and native species of plants that are used to fire and tough Australian summers.

......Or am I being too harsh?